Career counselors at Florida's two largest universities say students who do internships fare better in the post-graduation job market than students who hit the streets on a job search with no experience in their chosen field.
In fact, the push to get students real-world work experience before graduation is something colleges and universities across the state are making a top priority.
Because the unemployment rate for fresh-faced college grads still sits slightly higher than the national average, grads need a leg up into the job market, counselors say. At least to some extent, they need to be able to hit the ground running. And internships, paid or unpaid, served while they are still in school, give them a meaty resume to begin their career.
At Florida State University, around 4,000 students completed internships in 2012 alone.
More students are participating now and seeing the value of doing internships, Juliette McDonald, program director and instructor for Experiential Learning at the FSU Career Center, told Sunshine State News. Employers tend to recruit from the pool of students doing internships.
FSU works closely with its students to help them get internship experience through a website called SeminoleLink. There, students can actively search for open positions in Florida and across the country. Employers also sign up for interns on the site, and can come to FSU for on-campus interviews with students in the fields they're looking for.
The value of an internship, according to McDonald, is incredibly high. Students with completed internships stand out in a sea of resumes from new college grads without experience. On top of that, internships afford students valuable connections, put them in touch with people who can help them get a job.
Students can mingle out there with those in their profession and it helps confirm thats the area they want to go into, said McDonald.
Heather White, director of the Career Resource Center at the University of Florida, agreed that networking is important for students.
The No. 1 way to secure a job is networking, said White. Its an excellent way to start that process, and having an employer supervisor who can speak to ones work ability is valuable coming out of college.
White told SSN it wasnt uncommon for UF grads to leave the school with multiple internships under their belt. The university works closely with students to help them secure internships, and UFs Career Resource Center is recognized as the No. 1 career center in the nation by Princeton Review in 2010 and 2012.
UF also works closely with employers to see how they can provide a better internship experience for students and how they can effectively recruit students to work for their companies.
We have a team dedicated to employer relations, so we have staff who are dedicated to maintaining employers with UF and new companies we havent worked with, White told SSN. We are educating employers on how to best recruit students and on best-education practices.
UF also has an employer advisory board. It meets twice a year, and does site visits to learn about companies and what kind of students those companies hire. That, according to White, makes businesses proactive and will bring new recruits to organizations.
UF and FSU arent the only schools with internship programs in Florida. Colleges all across the state have career centers to help their students find internships that will set them apart from their peers and help them move successfully and confidently from college and into full-time employment.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at email@example.com.